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Hands Down, One of the Best ...

November 14, 2012 - Phyllis Sigal
Last week I suggested you run, don't walk, to see Jay Stock's exhibit at the Stifel Fine Arts Center.

Not that I want to tell you all what to do, but here's another piece of advice ...

Don't walk, don't even run, GALLOP to the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh this week to see "War Horse."

I've never seen anything like it. I was speechless with emotion for at least a quarter of the ride home to Wheeling from Pittsburgh last night.

It's magnificent.

It's a theatrical experience, with an incredible story.

There's laughter. There is sadness. There are explosions. There's blood. There are tears — on and off the stage.

And there are horses. The most incredible horses. There is a certain suspension of belief about these life-size puppets created by Handspring Puppet Co. They are made of plywood frames with foam rubber and nylon, and operated by humans. Our eyes may see the frame and the people, but our brains and our hearts see the horses dancing, prancing, galloping about the stage. Their movements couldn't be more lifelike.

We forget about the nuts and bolts and plywood and rubber as Joey, the lead horse, steals our hearts. And when he grows from foal to full-grown horse, well, it's magic.

Now having seen the show, I understand what Rae Smith, who I interviewed last month about her work, was explaining to me. Smith has won numerous awards for the set design, including the 2011 Tony Award for Scene Design.

A swath of white is part of the backdrop of the show, upon which Smith's drawings are projected. Villages and farms. Landscape. Battle scenes. Explosions. At one point, droplets of blood, slowly, agonizingly fill the white.

"War Horse" is at the Benedum Center for the Peforming Arts just until Nov. 18.

Don't miss it!

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